Writing an Employee Handbook is both important, and difficult, especially if it’s your first time.
Whether you’re the owner or head of HR (or both) of a blossoming young company, you need to know what works and what doesn’t, and the easiest way to learn is to look at the companies who have done it before.
ConnectedHR is a professional services company that specializes in providing HR services, both through consulting and complete operational partnership. We provide HR to companies of all sizes, across all industries and want to be your resource for effective Human Resources policy. This guide will supplement our Employee Handbook series with practical examples of good practices when constructing your handbook.
The biggest problem for HR first-timers are the unknown unknowns– things you didn’t know, questions you wouldn’t think to ask. Before implementing any ideas or policies, no matter how well they seem to fit with your company, be certain to check their legality. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has an excellent Small Business Handbook that should help new HR departments quickly align themselves with regulations. Also, head over to Ohio, gov (or the relevant state government website) for a complete rundown of employee rights and employer expectations. No matter how well something works for someone else, make sure it works for your company first.
Crafting a Message with Facebook
The design of your Employee Handbook will either be your first or last consideration, depending on how much you value its’ impact. Regardless, certain design choices can amplify the impact your copy has on new employees.
Check out the Facebook handbook here.
This exemplifies three things.
- Keep it simple. As you craft corporate culture and company vision, you’re going to begin to overwrite. Complex flowing prose may seem to really hammer home your passion for the company, but it won’t be interesting to anyone who isn’t you. Less is more.
- Design matters. The Facebook handbook tells the reader what it’s important by dedicating a full page to a single sentence. This isn’t the only way to do it, but using a clever design like this ensures that skimming employees always read what’s important.
- Sell the company. We’re seeing an avalanche of self-aggrandizing, faux noble mission statements in these pages. And they work. Maybe that’s only because Facebook is Facebook but it doesn’t matter what company you’re working for- the right mission statements can give your new employees perspective and shape their beliefs about the company.
An Employee Handbook is more than the words written inside- use every opportunity to make it the best it can be.
Communicating Expectations with Netflix
Speaking of selling your company, don’t forget who you’re writing for. Any employee packet, whether given in physical copy or published online, should speak to your corporate culture. Indicating what will work and what won’t within your offices serves a dual purpose. It keeps your staff aware of the standards you’ve set, and it causes new hires and potential new hires to self-correct. It says “You’re either this kind of worker, or you’re working somewhere else”.
Take a look at the Netflix Culture SlideShare.
Aside from being an excellent addition to anyone’s LinkedIn feed, this slideshow is amazing because it’s unapologetic and very clear about what you need to be to become part of their company. Netflix is flat-out saying- “if you don’t continue to meet our standards, we’ll find someone else”. Maybe they get to be that severe because they’re Netflix, but any new company should walk away from that knowing that the best way to communicate expectations is by being straightforward and aligning those expectations with the future you see for the company.
It also serves as a weird positive reinforcement if you do get hired on. Netflix is basically saying they everybody who works for them embodies all the honor, teamwork and passion of a saint on a crusade. If your employees read your material, and it makes them proud of themselves for working for you, all the better.
Business Conduct with Disney
Disney World has a very specific reputation when it comes to employee conduct within their parks. Whether or not you’ve actually been to the park, you’ve probably heard of their strict, and sometimes extreme, employee policy. Disney understands that, on every level, managing the behavior of your employees, and holding them to a standard, is the only way to maintain a healthy company culture.
The Walt Disney Standards of Business Conduct can be found here.
What we find in the Disney codes of conduct is the virtue of being thorough and consistent. Any company conduct policy should be the same. While each section is titled by different personal values, each chapter elaborates on how those ideas are enacted within the company. These values are tied to practices involving the acceptance of gifts (Honesty), safety (Trust), labor standards (Trust) and more. It’s easy to say “Everyone be honest” but it’s far more effective to show your employees what that honestly looks like.
As we’ve said, the results speak for themselves. These policies and this approach to policy crafting ensure that customers of Disney can rely on a certain level of service and that the company itself is safeguarded against liability. Both are paramount, and while it may not make your company the “happiest place on earth” implementing similar standards helps both your culture and your brand.
Social Media with Coca-Cola
A relative newcomer in the world of corporate policy, Social Media has nonetheless demanded attention from every major company in the world. This is about people- what they say about the company, how they conduct themselves outside of work, and the importance of safeguarding privileged information. Therefore, you have to strike a balance between no social media policy and one that’s so oppressive it’s completely illegitimate and unenforceable.
Coca-Cola’s Social Media Principles are published on their website.
Anyone crafting a Social Media Policy should be able to break it down in much the same way as Coca-Cola.
- Company Commitments: The boilerplate reassurance and promise a company makes to be both honest and fair in all matters relating to the topic at hand.
- Company Employees Social Media Activities; An understanding that the company doesn’t have the ability to revoke the personal rights of employees.
- Personal Social Media Expectations: Ensuring that your employees communicate honestly, legally and without conflicts of interest regarding your company. Also, make certain that any information that goes out about specific inner-workings is sanctioned.
- Spokespeople Expectations: If you’re going to have people whose job it is to represent the company, they must be trained, work with integrity, and cognizant of the impact of their actions and words.
In a world of information, and misinformation, everything a company says and does is scrutinized. Your brand and business must set guidelines dictating social media policy without infringing on the rights of your employees. Social Media policy has become vital to every company.